While passing through the Southwest corner of Minnesota earlier this summer, an unmistakable brown and white sign reserved for national monuments popped into view: Pipestone National Monument
Located in the town of Pipestone, Pipestone National Monument is the site where generations of American Indians have quarried, and continue to quarry, the sacred red pipestone from the remains of a tallgrass prairie that once covered the land.
For countless generations, American Indians have quarried the red pipestone found at this site. These grounds are sacred to many people because the pipestone quarried here is carved into pipes used for prayer. Many believe that the pipe’s smoke carries one’s prayer to the Great Spirit. The traditions of quarrying and pipemaking continue here today.
A small park by national monument standards, a typical visit to Pipestone National Monument involves a trip to the visitor center, where you can watch a 22-minute interpretive film and see a cultural demonstration of pipestone carving (this is located back towards the bookstore and gift shop).
The highlight of the trip (in my option) is the Circle Trail nature walk that begins and ends at the Visitor Center. A paved walking trail that weaves and winds through the park, you could probably push a stroller or wheelchair on the path if you had some assistance.
We suggest alotting 45 minutes to an hour for the entire walk. Features along the trail include the pipestone quarries, historical markers, Old Stone Face, Winnewissa Falls, Oracle and the native tallgrass prairie. Trail guides are available for loan or purchase in the Visitor Center. Several benches are placed along the trail. As you hike along the path, look for bits of cloth tied to the branches of trees. Many hold tobacco in bundles that are meant as an offering in prayer.
Visiting Pipestone National Monument with my friend Amanda, please read her take on the experience for a much more insightful account of what a trip to Pipestone really means.